Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winter Sowing. .A New Concept to this Gardener!

After doing some research lately on winter sowing, a gardening technique I have heard multiple gardeners discuss. .I decided that it sounded intriguing enough to try out.  While my big boys were helping our friend Lane with the destruction and re-struction of a house. .and Miss Thing was asleep. .This nine year old needed something to do. .so we went to the greenhouse to get creative.
Winter sowing is the process of planting mini-greenhouses with seeds. .and setting them outside for the remainder of the winter. The point is to get seedlings by mimicking mother nature. .in a sheltered kind of fashion.  There are LOTS of ways it can be done. .here's what we did.
Because I had smashed all of our other milk cartons to recycle, I only found 2 that were ready to use.(now I have 2 more ready, waiting to be planted.) We sliced the jugs all the way around, leaving a small intact piece where the handle is. Cut some drainage holes in the bottom. .added about 4 inches of soil (we used Miracle grow potting mix. .but some people just dig dirt out of their gardens). Wet it down. Sprinkled with seeds, covered with a bit more soil, and sprinkled with water again.  Then we folded the top back down, taped it shut with duct tape. .and set it in a sunny spot. Be sure to leave the milk cap off for ventilation. .or you will bake your seeds. We also used some plastic planters and then covered them with a layer of 4 mil plastic construction sheeting (like a dropcloth, but a little thicker) picked up at the local lumber yard. I also cut some ventilation slits in the plastic sheeting.

We started with 8 types of seed. The theory is that they will germinate on time because it is nice and warm in the little greenhouse climate. They are also getting cold at night too. .so they are hardier at planting time than other plants. This will save tons of room in my greenhouse if it works. Seeds like morning glory and other hard coated seeds don't need to be soaked or nicked before planting like this. .the freeze and thaw action softens them just like mother nature would. I plan to start most of my flowers this way. .and have been able to include some varieties that I would never have tried in the greenhouse due to space.  I'm also going to try a couple varieties that I haven't had good luck starting myself to see if it works. 
We put the flats on the south side of the greenhouse. .which is both out of the way, and sunny/warm. .so it should work well there, without being an eyesore. I can hardly wait until spring to see how well it will work out!!
In other gardening news, this girl is now sneaking out to the greenhouse to "water" and eat chives!! I caught her last weekend while she was telling me that she had "watered" the greenhouse. .all by herself. The scent of chives on her breath was a pretty good giveaway to her REAL motives!! We also enjoyed some Swiss chard in our lettuce salad last weekend. It's such a beautiful leafy green packed full of goodness!
I have decided that these are one of the cherry tomato varieties, because of the way that they are coming on in a cluster of fruit.
GonSS. .did the sweet baby tomatoes get this big?? They appear to be bigger than grocery store cherry tomatoes. .but there are a ton of them on this plant (which you can see for yourself) I had planted a black tomato. .determinate variety. .but it really never got this much fruit on it at once. This plant will yet surprise us as to which variety it is!
I sowed some cabbage. .just cause. . a few weeks ago. .and the seedlings are off and running. I was curious as to whether they would be a good specimen for a greenhouse. The first 2 years I grew some lettuce, tomatoes and peppers for consumption during the winter season. This year I find myself ready to try some new things. This is an evolving process. .and easy to see why there are so many books on the subject of greenhouse gardening.  The little pot to the left is some leftover flat leafed parsley. I noted a couple of seeds sprouting the first of the week. I sowed these seeds in addition to some others back in September. .but due to an extra hot day. .and the fact that my ventilating things weren't working right. .the temperatures got so hot, I think they baked the seeds. .since NOTHING germinated at that time.
Grant and I sowed some lettuce mixes from Johnny's seeds a little over a week ago. .in 3 days some of the sprouts were up. Next weekend we should start another few flats. The lettuce we produce certainly is a far cry from feeding our family. .but it DOES make for some nice variety of our salad when we mix the baby greens with a head of iceberg lettuce from the store, and is cheaper than buying bags of baby mixed greens. .which I love in my salads. 

I got seeds ordered from a few different catalogs last weekend. .as they arrive. .I plan to do some more winter sowing jugs. As I understand, this can be an ongoing process through the months of January and February. I hope I can report back with some success in March!! The best thing about this project is that you don't need anything special to do a little seed starting of your own!! I'd love to know if anyone else has ever tried this out. .and how it worked for you! I'd also love to know if anyone else will sign up to experiment with me the remaining months of winter!

It's almost Friday!!
Be blessed!


  1. Melanie-you're so going to enjoy the winter sowing. I had great success last year. I started a few things yesterday and they are now basking on the deck. It's just nice for those of us without greenhouses to have something gardening-related to do.
    Have a great week and good luck with the little seeds!

  2. Hello Melanie! I was just thinking about planting seeds indoors the other day. I can't remember when is the right time for PA. I think some people start tomatoes in Feb. I don't have a green house so this is not an option for me. I would love to do some indoor lettuce. My husband says the way our house is situated is not right for the sunlight to get to the plants. He's right..there are no windows facing the morning sun. I do get some sun in the front I want to try. My garden was not successful at all last summer. I did not have much fertilizer..the soil was was I am thinking about this spring already and how I am going to improve it. Man, I tell you what, we get Christmas out of the way and don't we just start thinking about gardening again! hahaha LOL! Well, if I decide to do some inside lettuce I will let you know. :)

  3. I'm looking forward to seeing how your experiments work! I must admit that I'm rather enjoying the quiet time inside these days. I plan to start some lettuce, etc., in a couple weeks for transplanting into the garden in early March, but for now I've got quite a few indoor projects calling my name.

  4. I laughed that you said you'd smashed all your gallon milk jugs right before doing this. I have a note on the front of the refrigerator, "save milk jugs." I want to do some winter sowing too. Last year, everything I wrote in permanant marker came off with one snow fall on the jugs. I'm wanting to do more plants this year so I'm going to separate them in the garden by plant and make a little note or something instead.

    It's good to see your greenhouse being so productive and that the kids enjoy it too.

    As for the tomatoes, sweet baby was the smallest ones we had. Cute little drop shaped cherry tomatoes. The ones on your plant already look bigger than what I remember.

    I found a photo:

    Page down a bit to the photo of the tomatoes on the kitchen counter. Now, I may have gotten mater sandwich and the brandywine switched. Something later in the summer made me think I had them backwards in my notes. I think you have one of those two. Either way, enjoy those fresh tomatoes!

  5. I have fun seeing your gardening stuff. We're going to exchange our garden area for a horseshoe pit and sitting area. :)

  6. My aren't you industrious!I've always admired people that start winter gardening and veg. I on the spring. I didn't realize that you could start this early. Well, I look forward to hearing about your results.
    Oh my! A chive bandit! Ha ha!

  7. I tired growing lettuce and some other vegetables and putting them under plastic to overwinter. It worked good for the most part. They do not grow but say alive. However,I got some radishes the other day that were grayish inside. I am going to try to plant sooner next year and see if I can over winter them.

  8. I had to giggle about the chives! That girl is sumptin'. DJ